Just like Sir Alan Sugar, the Co-op appreciates the importance of apprentices, but unlike the TV entrepreneur we don’t have one place available – we have hundreds.
As we operate at the heart of thousands of communities we understand why employment is key to the success of many neighbourhoods.
This year we have piloted a Level 2 apprentice programme in our food stores. We were specifically looking to attract applications from those who had not been employed or had not been able to secure a permanent full-time role.
Our apprentices get paid the same rate as our store team colleagues and are given permanent contracts.
This sets us apart from many of our competitors who offer fixed term apprenticeships at the lower rate of £3.30 per hour. Currently, we only recruit over 18s because of the in-store age restraints relating to licensing and bakery but we are considering our strategy going forward.
During our first round of recruitment in January, we offered 39 applicants a full-time apprenticeship.
Interestingly, the demographics of the 39 apprentices were 43% men and 57% women compared to our overall ratio of 56% men – 44% women. It was also the first full time job for 80% of the individuals.
As many as 40% of our in-store customer team member recruits leave during probation but this has been halved in this apprentice intake. It is not always easy, but the candidates that stay make the programmes worthwhile.
Development and progression
Our roles in-store offer individuals positive practical support in order to develop their skills.
Kirishan from our Northolt Store in London joined us through our apprenticeship programme. Before joining he had been unable to secure permanent employment and moved from one temporary part time role to the next. In the short time he has been with us he has developed his skills so much so that he won our Bakery Award Challenge set for our apprentices.
We are fine tuning our approach to apprentices all the time, particularly when it comes to recruitment.
We have partnered with 200 Co-op secondary schools and encourage our managers to work with their local schools and colleges in order to build links and to recruit apprentices. We offer a development role for those who would prefer a more practical next step instead of further academic studies at college or university.
There is a myth that apprentices have to be young people. That is why we are working to recruit via ex-military networks and Mumsnet, to reach people who may have been out of the regular workplace for some time. Our local outlets and wide range of working hours make it an attractive proposition for many individuals.
It is our belief that apprenticeships are a great way to offer a career to people who may not have found one in any another way, as many other opportunities focus on an individual’s personal, work and academic development. That is why we support See Potential, which encourages employers to see the potential within everyone.
We believe the apprentice concept fits comfortably with our co-operative values. It is our aim to not only recruit today’s store team members but to give them the opportunities to become our leaders of tomorrow.
Who knows – in a few years’ time, when our board is looking to appoint a new Chief Executive, they could say to one of our 2016 apprentices – “You’re hired”.